And so the chaos begins.
Actually, I’m a very organized chef for holidays. Well in advance, I come up with the menu and actually create a schedule for the day that I can (as well as whoever’s helping in the kitchen) follow without getting crazed and stressed out. This is one of the smartest ideas I’ve ever had. I’m a worrier, Type-A by nature. I like a good list, and if you’re like me, the schedule is your best friend.
The best way to figure out your schedule is knowing two things: when do you want to eat, and how long does your longest component take. For Thanksgiving, the thing that takes the longest to cook is the turkey, of course. Once we decide on when we want to eat, it’s a bit of simple subtraction. Take last year: we wanted to eat at 4 pm. It was going to take 2 hrs 15 minutes to cook the turkey, plus 30 minutes to rest, and time for the oven to come up to temperature while finishing last-minute bird prep (which I gave myself 30 mins to do). All told, I needed 3 hrs 15 minutes to get the turkey done. So I started my schedule at 12:45 pm. Everything else was worked around the most important component. It’s especially helpful if you have multiple things coming in and out of the oven and you have to remember to baste. I put every little prep and cooking detail (including recipe page numbers) on the schedule with the menu at the top.
Never again have a frazzled holiday of cooking!
Now, besides setting up my wonderful schedule, today is also brining day! Remember when I told you about my pilgrimage to Williams Sonoma? And how I bought a container of turkey brine? Well, it’s time to break that bad boy out. We’ve brined our turkey for the past few years, and it, combined with the breast down roasting technique, has resulted in the juiciest turkey I’ve ever had.
Now, if you’ve never brined something, the idea can seem a little intimidating. But trust me, the hardest part about it is making sure you have a container big enough to hold it all. Really, all it comes down to is boiling salt, sugar, and seasoning in water until the salt and sugar dissolve. Then the mix is cooled, diluted with some water (usually ice water to bring the temp down even more), and poured over the turkey. It’s like giving your turkey a nice bath before you fire up the oven. Now, the first two years we brined, we put our turkey in a garbage bag (2, actually, for better leak protection) and put it in the cooler in the garage (where is stays well below 45 this time of year). the tricky part is that you’re supposed to turn the turkey once about half way through the 12-36 hour brining time. This year, we got a little fancy and bought brining bags at Williams Sonoma. It’s still going in the cooler in the garage, but perhaps it’s a bit more secure this time. We’ll see.
Anyways, once it’s time to cook, you simply remove the bird from the brine, rinse and pat dry. It really does make a big difference, not just in flavor, but in moistness. The salt in the brine pulls moisture into the bird that then keeps things juicy in the oven.
And should you need help for this holiday, don’t forget that Butterball has a hotline:
This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes of television. Really, the whole episode, “The Indians in the Lobby” (Season 3, Episode 8) is worth watching on Netflix.
Tomorrow I’ll be blogging as I cook (provided things don’t get too nutty with three people cooking!), and then a recap and leftover ideas on Friday. Happy holidays!